Sunday, January 30, 2011

Summer Home

Life just keeps getting better here at Eco-girl!  This weekend was full of wonderful surprises and let me say that I don't have enough photos to be posting this but I was so excited that I haven't had time to take the photos necessary.  I will update this later.

I digress... Friday, late afternoon, I get a text from Jake that read:  We have to talk tonight.  Found a camper in great condition and super cheap.

At first, my thoughts immediately went to the cost involved but my ears perked up just the same.  When I got home to find a very jazzed Jake, he explained the details of the said camper. (He calls it a trailer, but I insist on calling it a camper. I think trailer sounds so white trashy.)  Turns out my step-dad (who also owns about 40 acres that we frequently camp on in the summer and currently have a trashy camper there) stumbled upon a 1997 Jayco "trailer".   The guy was selling it for $4500, which may sound like alot but once you see the pics you will be impressed.  After a long conversation about the financials involved, Jake and I agreed that it would be a wise investment for our family.  We love spending weekends out at the lake in the summer.  And who can blame me with a view like this??

Jake went to see the camper, I mean trailer, Saturday morning and decided it was worth every dime, so he called me with school-boy enthusiasm.  "We're getting it!"  he chimed into the phone.  As my heart and stomach filled with butterflies of thoughts of lazy summer days and my bare feet in the grass, I asked what it was like, as if I were asking about a long lost friend.  He described with every minute detail, as I hung on every word as if he were describing a new born child.  The inside included a set of bunk beds, perfect for the kids, a private bedroom and full closet, for us , a bathroom with a tub,shower, toilet and sink.  Yes, it has a bathroom!!  Finally, after 12 years of using an outhouse in the middle of the night, we now have a real life bathroom!!  It also boasts a full kitchen with three burner stove, oven, microwave and dinette table, which also flips into a bed.  In addition, it has a couch that flips into a bed, tons of storage and pretty etched glass front cupboards.  It also has duct ran heating and cooling, perfect for our crazy IL weather!

I will be the first to say that I appreciated every minute that we had in our little junky camper, which I blogged about here. However, we have been longing for a more appropriately sized and amititied (?) camping option for some time. 

When he brought the new camper home on Saturday, the same day we decided that we had fallen in love, I was ecstatic!  It was kind of like meeting someone new, falling in love and moving in together all in the same day.  It was everything I dreamed of and more.  As I entered the squeaky screen door, I think I heard it say "Welcome home."  Visions of spending weekends and even weeks at the lake this summer flashed through my head.  I saw Luci and Ivan eating breakfast at the kitchen table while the dogs lay on the floor.  I envisioned cooking dinner for my family while the kids catch lightening bugs outside.  I saw me not having to grab a flashlight and head for the outhouse at 10pm.  What possibilities this camper holds for our family.  It will be the place where our memories are made and I can't wait for Spring now, more than ever.  I have already claimed it as my summer home and big plans are in the works for long term habitation there I tell you!  CHEERS!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tattle Box

I have felt very accomplished in the last week.  I feel like I have done loads of things that have been sitting on a TO-DO list far too long.  I was able to finally reorganize my classroom library this week.  This involved me and a student going through each basket sorting books by genre and eliminating out of date books.  I also have wanting to get rid of some ancient reading text books that have been collecting dust in my room.  I finally got the go ahead from my principal that I could get rid of them.  So, my students each got two very old reading text books and several out of date picture books.  They were thrilled though!  You would have thought that I gave them cash they way they carried on.  I'm just glad they are finally out of my class and I now have a whole book shelf that is empty. 

Additionally, I have had time to reconfigure my reader's workshop time.  I have come up with some new stations and plan on implementing those next week.  Sorry for all the teacher-speak.  I also created a Tattle Box for my room, which seems to be working just great.  Let me debrief you on this tactic.

For a long time I have noticed that the same students seem to tattle on each other all the time.  They were usually petty things like "He keeps putting his paper on my desk" or "She's humming too much".  I decorated a fancy shoebox that I had to have the last time I was at TJ Maxx, with a label "THE TATTLE BOX".  I explained to the kids that sometimes we aren't telling the teacher about something because someone is hurt or hurting you but just to get someone in trouble.  Sometimes, teachers are busy and can't respond to a humming neighbor right away.  Or sometimes teachers get tired of you being a know it all and trying to get people in trouble.  Well, I didn't really say that last one, but you get the idea. 

The Tattle Box is for the moments when someone really isn't in immediate danger or hurting anyone else...maybe just being annoying.  I cut up pieces of paper and put them next to the Tattle Box.  We talked about sometimes at a business they have a comment box and the Tattle Box is kind of like that.  I explained that the tattler can not use a person's name because we wouldn't want someone to get embarrassed and they didn't need to write their name on the tattle.  This was something that was strictly confidential and I would be the only reading the Tattle. Actually, my words were that if anyone opened the box to read the tattles, they would loose recess for a week.  GASP!! Ok, Mrs. T we won't touch it!

Two days later, I realized that the Tattle Box was overflowing with tattles.  After school it was my mission to read some of them. I thought I could pick a few and we could discuss how we could handle the tattling situation.  (Teachable moments, people.  Teachable moments.)  The following were some of the tattles:

  • Someone keeps bothering me. (Probably 20 of these.)
  • Someone said I don't like their drawing when I really do.
  • Someone keeps humming real loud.
  • Someone sneezed on me.
  • A girl keeps calling me mustard. (This was in the tattle box twice.)
  • My neighbor keeps talking during writing time when I am trying to do my work.
  • At recess someone kicked me.
  • At PE someone through the ball and it hit me in the face.
The last three were great teachable moments.  We talked about how things that happen at recess and PE need to be reported to the proper authorities, especially if someone is hurting you. (Let the PE teacher and recess monitors take care of there own tattling problems, I found the solution to mine.)  We also talked about bothering other people when we're supposed to be working.  We also talked about what is really important to tell someone about.  i.e. Does it really matter that much if your neighbor thinks you don't like their drawing when you really do?

I absolutely love the Tattle Box!  It's my new best friend and I think I might take it out to lunch for accepting so many complaints in so little time. 

I just have to say that I love my job and my students.  Things like the Tattle Box remind me of the innocence of being little, what is important or not and in the grand scheme of things, sometimes if I write it down, I immediately feel better.  Case closed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Short and Sweet

Just a few things that are on my mind tonight...

1)  I only watch American Idol when they do the auditions because I like the really bad singers that think they are awesome.  I really love Steven Tyler as a judge.  I can always tell if the person is going to Hollywood by the goosebumps I get when they sing.  I admit, I get teary eyed sometimes when a really great performer comes on and nails it.  It helps if they have a great back story of hope, courage and over coming something.  I'm sappy that way.

2)  I am in desperate search of free or cheap downloadable audio books for my class.  I want to set up listening stations with books to go with them.  I have searched the entire Internet and I can't find anything that isn't $7 per download or more.  I can't afford that, so my next alternative is reading and recording the audio books myself...which could get interesting.

3)  Problem child hasn't been to school all week so I've gotten a lot done!  I got all my grading period reading assessments done and had time to put together a book shelf and reorganize my classroom library.

4)  It's pretty bad when 30 degrees feels warm outside...

5) I have been listening to Jeff Buckley a lot lately. A lot.  If you don't know who that is, please Google him ASAP.  Jeff Buckley- Grace is amazing and I must say I have probably listened to it at least 5 million times.  Such a tragedy that he died so young and didn't have the opportunity to share more of his raw talent.

6)  Tomorrow is Friday.  That means three things. 1)It's jeans and sweatshirt day, which rocks!  2)It's my treat day so I bought a bunch of yummy breakfast rolls and danishes.  3)The weekend is upon us!  CHEERS!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Doll House Renovation

Before the Christmas season began, I was brainstorming ideas of what to get the kids.  Ivan is fairly easy because a) he's a boy and b)  he loves anything with guns or video games.  Luci, on the other hand, is a little harder to buy for.  A little girl can only have so many baby dolls and Barbie's.  So, as I was trying to come up with idea and my mom mentioned that she still had my dollhouse in the basement if I wanted it for Luci.  The light bulb went off in my brain and I reeled with ideas.  

The dollhouse was given to me by my Grandpa B. who made it by hand when I was like 5 years old.  The dollhouse was my favorite thing to play with and my mom says I spent hours hosting dinner parties, weddings, and rearranging furniture in this dollhouse.  I remember how much I loved this dollhouse as a little girl and how special it would be if I could pass this down to Luci.  I know my grandparents put alot of time and love into making it, so, I decided this would be a great gift for Luci and crafty project for me!  When my mom brought the dollhouse over and placed it in the garage (my workspace) I came up with a whole designer motif.   
The before picture with the old wallpaper and exterior.

The front that needed some molding reattached.

Close up of the interior

Close up of the 'kitchen'
 I decided that I would re-wallpaper the interior and paint the exterior.  I promptly went to Hobby Lobby (my favorite store as most of you already know) and browsed all the dollhousing options.  I soon realized that dollhousing could easily become very expensive.  I left Hobby Lobby empty handed and a little defeated.  As I became obsessed with the idea of renovating this dollhouse, I searched eBay, dollhouse websites and craft sites for cheaper material options needed for the project.  I found a couple of great websites with DIY hints and cheap substitutions.  I felt more empowered to take on the project with my own creativity.

I went back to Hobby Lobby and scavenged through the 1.5 million choices of scrap booking paper, looking for cute, girly prints that would be small enough for the interior of the house.  I decided on a few funky, retro patterns that were still light and pastel enough but a bit more modern.  I picked out a pink pastel paint for the exterior and a purple for the trim.  I guess I was going for a Painted Lady Victorian look.

I was still in a dilemma about what to do with the roof because there were quite a few water stains and tears in it.  I looked all over for replacement roofing that was similar, but no luck.  I searched some more on the Internet and found another DIY site that showed how to paint it in a way to cover stains.  After another trip to Hobby Lobby I was finally ready to begin.

I started by painting the exterior with the pink and the purple trim. This was a painstaking task because it requires a steady hand.  After several coats of paint, the exterior was almost complete with the exception of a few trim pieces that needed free hand painting done.  (I had a friend in mind for that part!)

The next step was removing all the old wallpaper and trim so I could put on my new funky, fresh patterns.  The trim was so delicate that I used an Exacto knife, as not to break this 30 year old miniature trim.  I spent several evenings in the garage measuring, Exacto cutting and applying the new paper.  I used a crafter's glue the apply the paper and a plastic spatula thingy to smooth out the bubbles.  After roughly 30 hours worth of labor the house was almost done.

There was some exterior trim that needed attached so I got out the crafter's glue and reattached those as well.  A friend of Jake's is an amazing artist so I called him on Dec. 22 to help me finish the last minute details.   He free handed the front door trim and added a painted trellis on the side of the house with purple flowers. 

In the meantime, I was talking to Grandma C and telling her about the project.  She and grandpa were thrilled to hear that 1) the dollhouse was still around and 2) I was fixing it up for Luci.  She also told me about this box full of dollhouse furniture that she acquired.  A week later I received a huge box in the mail with enough furniture to decorate six dollhouses!  I had a blast going through it all and thinking of all the possibilities.  After careful consideration, I decided to put these very delicate pieces away for awhile. 

Afterall, Luci was not quite 3 and I was sure she would have them destroyed in about 2 hours.  So with that said, I needed an idea to furnish the house with non-breakable furniture.  Back to the Internet I went and found a line of inexpensive plastic furniture.  After several trips to several stores during the holiday season, I found  a living room, dining room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen set of furniture.  I also picked up a few more little people for the house. 

On Christmas Eve Jake, my mom and I brought the finished dollhouse into the house and set up all the new furniture.  I stood back, quite proud of myself and smiled.  I thought about how much time, effort and love went into renovating this 30- year old dollhouse.  I thought about how my grandparents must have felt when they did the same for me.  And lastly, I thought about the look on Luci's face when she would get to see it on Christmas morning. 

The finished product.

We carefully placed the dollhouse next to the tree and closed the door to the room where the tree was. (Our house is too small to put a big tree in the living room, so it's in a front entry way.) The next morning, I made the kids wait until I could get the FLIP and camera ready because I wanted to capture the look on her face. As I searched for the camera, Luci pounded and banged on the door, shouting "Let me in! Let me in!"
When I finally opened the door, she immediately ran to the dollhouse and this was the response:
She sees it for the first time and immediately starts playing with it.

Luci examining the contents.
I think she loves it!

Thanks Grandma C and Grandpa B for being so awesome in making the dollhouse to begin with.  I now realize the amount of work and effort it took.  I love every memory of my beloved dollhouse and now Luci can too!!  You rock!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dog Blog

So, as long as I have been blogging, I have rarely mentioned my beloved, four legged friends, Winston and Phoebe.  Winston, my distinguished Yorkshire Terrier would say "How incredibly rude!"  Well, let me introduce you to my two furry friends. 

Here she is playing in the snow recently.
Phoebe is a 12 year old Sheltie mix of some sort.  Phoebe and I have been together longer than Jake and I.  She has been my partner in crime through many ups and downs of life.  Our relationship began when a relationship ended many years ago.  My boyfriend had just dumped me and I felt very....alone, I guess.  So I did what any lonely, sad woman would do.  I went to the pound.  After searching through hundreds of yipping dogs, I saw Phoebe.  She was the most hyper dog in the kennel and the most adorable.  She was only a few months old and a big ball of furry fluff.  She was all white with one blue eye and one brown eye.  She looked like a stuffed animal that ran and played.  We became instant friends and she has remained by my side since.  She has a very distinct personality and comes with many quirks.  She is terrified of thunderstorms and will pee if the pressure drops too quickly.  We call her our little barometer.  Although she is now 12, she is spry for her age.  She enjoys getting in the garbage and guarding the food dish.  She likes to over power Winston and loves to be snuggled and given all of your attention.

Sir Winston Churchill playing in the snow.
Winston is our baby dog who just had a birthday a few months ago.  We got Winston last Christmas and he is my baby.  As I write he is sound asleep on my lap, cuddled up under my blanket.  He is a Yorkie and is proud to prove it.  He desperately wants to be big and wants you to believe that he is tough.  (But he's not.)  He loves to antagonize Phoebe but usually gets his butt kicked.  He loves the kids and loves to play with them. 

But they really love each other.

We call this "Big Dog in a Little Bed"
Phoebe likes to think that she is a small lap dog too.  Lately, she likes sleeping in Winston's bed, even though her pillow is three times bigger.   Winston, though, will not be having it.
Winston reclaims his spot.

"Come on mom!  Clothes for Christmas?!?"

"Ahhh, toys!!  That's better!!"

Winston tells his friends that he hates to wear clothes, but really, he secretly loves it.  Just yesterday he asked me about a new puffy coat for winter.  I told him I would see what I could do, but no promises.  He'll pretend to hate it but frolic joyfully in the snow just the same.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blog Likes and Dislikes

Lately, I have been all about reading other peoples' blogs and I have been compiling a list of things that I like and don't like about different types of blogs. The list:


The photographer: I like when photographers share there most recent beauties. I like to look at still nature photography, photos of interesting people, not just children and brides in a field, but hobos, people that you meet along the way on a road trip, etc. I like it when the photographer gives a little background info or a caption, so I know what or who I am looking at.

The Foodie: I love reading blogs about recipes and food that people have made. I love it even more if there are pictures. I really adore it when they then share the recipe and any notes. It is especially helpful when they share a downfall or adaptation that can be made. It makes me feel a little more normal to see someone elses' cake fall or a smooshy pasta dish that didn't turn out quite right. I love to cook and try new things, so I always get ideas from others' blogs.

The YouTube Linker: Something attracts me to a blog with a video link involved. As I scan through new blogs to read, I will admit if I see a video I will usually watch it or listen to it, whichever the case. I really think it rocks when the music or video goes with the written blog. If you truly want to see a great example of this check out an older blog I wrote about Denise.

The Interesting World Traveler: There is something magical and tragic about the World Traveler. These blogs always suck me in and I envy their freedom and careless abandon for life's adventures. In addition, the World Traveler usually also falls into The Photographer category as well. They usually have tons of photos and experiences to share that I will never have the opportunity to experience. I live vicariously through The World Traveler.

The Down to Earth: I absolutely love reading a Down to Earth blog. These blogs are usually simple musings of daily life from ordinary people, like myself that find humor in everyday occurrences. If I read about a trip to the grocery store, Walmart or a funny conversation that has a humorous spin or afterthought, I will most definitely read it and possible follow that blog. The whole reason I read blogs is for entertainment and if someone can make me laugh over an ordinary event, then I say, Cheers, we'll be great friends!


The Family Blog: This blog is usually the most irritating to me. It is usually filled with photos of children, pets and family vacations. The content is free of cursing and is generally bland. While I understand that this type of blog is intended to keep distant relatives in touch with what is going on, I don't usually enjoy reading them or viewing them. You can identify a Family Blog fairly quickly based on the name of the blog, i.e. The Jones'- Our Adventure.

The Photographer: You say to yourself "Hey you just said you liked The Photographer" Well, my answer to that is, it depends on the photographer. I have come across many blogs with photography that makes me want to vomit, i.e. The bride in a field, the bride by the river, babies in baskets, etc. I also don't like it when all they do is upload the photos and I don't get a back story or caption. If you want me to be a follower of your blog, please tell me what I am looking at.

The Non-optional Music Blog: There is little that I hate more than this type of blog. I may be casually flipping through blogs and I stop on one that looks a little interesting and WHAM! A bad country song starts to play. Seriously! ? With no option to turn it off before my ears start to bleed, I simply skip the blog. Like I said before, I love a YouTube video, but non-optional music frustrates me. How can you be so sure that everyone that clicks your blog will like some Kenny Chesney song?

The Overly Artsy: I consider myself a pretty creative and artistic being but I get really bored with the people that emit attitude about their art. An aura of "better than you" puts a bad taste in my mouth. While they may also fit into the Interesting World Traveler, if I feel you're a little too cocky about yourself, I will skip your blog.

This is an ongoing list and I may make updates as I read more blogs and my interests change. What types of blogs do you like or dislike?

Monday, January 17, 2011


Ok, maybe it's just me and I am doing something wrong, but why do so many blogs seem churchy? I love to read other peoples' blogs and I often just hit the "next blog" button but it seems like I get sent to many ministers, youth groups, mission trips and whatnot. Am I really that Anti-religion that even blogger is trying to send me a message? WTF? or maybe I should be a little more PC and say WTheck?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winter blahs

Ok, I'm done. Winter has officially gotten on my last nerve. Illinois winters have always been a nuisance but now I'm really done. It is all of 10 degrees outside and that's not including the wind chill factor. The only time I really enjoy winter is when we have the first snowfall and all the trees are pretty in the morning. After that, I'm done. I am ready for spring and all it has to offer. Hell, I would take a good 40 degree day about now. I'm ready for the birds to come back, the trees to sprout new buds and my bulbs to come up. (It's pretty bad that the birds are smart enough to get the f" out of dodge for the winter.)

We are all starting to go a little stir crazy around here. With the weather being as such, the kids can't play outside, Jake can't do whatever it is that guys do outside and I can't hang out on the deck. I've made a New Years Attempt (notice I didn't say resolution, that's so binding) to read and write more everyday. I am happy to say I haven't watched TV since Sunday. Yep that's four whole days now. A real record for me, really. Jake isn't quite sure what to do without a TV buddy. As I blog, he is begging me to watch the new CSI with him. I may give in, after all, it is CSI. That's worth breaking a four day streak, right?

I have been reading a couple different books in the last week. I got a gift card for Borders for Christmas so, of course I bought a few books for the kids and only one for myself. I opted for Wuthering Heights, since I loved it so and haven't read it since high school. I've been reading that when my brain can handle it and when I just feel a little smooshy I read the rest of Breaking Dawn from the Twilight series. It's a little cheesy but what a great and addicting series! I started reading all the Twilight books last Christmas and promptly read the first three books over Christmas break. Then I started reading Breaking Dawn and lost interest in it, not to mention it's like a million pages long. Anyways, I resolved to finish it sometime this year, so I've been working on it. I'm not fully convinced that Edward is this great, mysterious lover that Meyer wants him to be. (I think he borders more on the obsessive and controlling side, if you ask me.) I certainly wouldn't want my young daughter to fall for a guy like that. Nonetheless, it's a good series and I will trudge my way through it just so I can say I have read them all.

With all the reading and no TV, I have kind of started to miss my husband. We bond over sharing snacks and the couch together as we watch mindless TV. He's good company and keeps me entertained. In fact, I think I'll go say hello.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Self reflection: A Comedy

I don't know why I always do this to myself. Procrastination has gotten the best of me, yet again. It' s become kind of like when you pass off something you don't want to do to someone else. For example, since I have a fairly responsible six year old now, I have convinced him that he loves to vacuum on Sunday's in order to earn more XBOX time. Works. Try it some time.

Anyways, I returned to school yesterday from winter break in a complete whirlwind of disorganization and utter chaos. I was running late, due to the fact that I haven't attempted to get dressed before noon for the last two weeks, let alone making it out the door by 7:45am. I hastily rushed through the main office, got the contents of my mailbox that was overflowed and tried to avoid any direct conversation with anyone. I knew people would all excited to see each other and ask how the break was, but I knew I left myself plenty to keep me busy this particular morning. In my failed attempts to dodge human conversation, I was informed that I would be getting a new student. Right now. This second, in fact, she will be down to my room in a matter of minutes. Lovely.

Not that I mind having a new student, just not today. I wasn't prepared yet.

On Dec. 17, the last day before break my Dec. 17th self decided to leave all the copying for the Jan. 3rd self to do. Then the Dec. 17th self also felt good about the rough outline of a lesson plan for the week, but failed to really think through the details. Another job for the Jan. 3rd self. Additionally, the Dec. 17th self was a total jerk when she decided to leave all the Christmas decorations up for the Jan. 3rd self to clean up!

Turns out the Dec. 17th self didn't realize that the Jan. 3rd self had enough to do, let alone doing all of the 17th's work too! How inconsiderate!? The 17th self didn't even take into consideration that the 3rd self would like to ease back into things and walk into a prepared class, not to mention, what if the 3rd self got a new student!?

In the end, it all worked out and the 3rd self and 17th self are now on speaking terms. The Dec. 17th self decided it was selfish and should never take advantage of the Jan. 3rd self again. An apology was made and lessons learned.

Note to self: Quit talking to yourself, Heather!

Monday, January 3, 2011


I have been thinking lately about something that I had taken for granted in my single, unmarried, childless youth........time. Yes, time. Uninterrupted, quiet, blissful time. This question has come over me lately.....What do people without spouses and children do with all that time they have??

Don't get me wrong, I love my family and I wouldn't give that up for anything but I sometimes wonder how those single friends live? When I think about my daily routine and schedule I can't even find ten quiet minutes to take a shower in peace. I wonder what a day in the life of a 30-something single person sounds like. I certainly know what my life is like and it is full of hurried chaos, refereeing fighting, wiping noses and butts and kissing boo boos.

I think about what I would do if I did ever get that week long vacation that I dream about daily. I honestly think I would be bored in about an hour. So, it makes me wonder what do people without kids do with all that time? Go to the movies when they feel like it? Take a long hot shower in the middle of the day? Sleep until lunchtime? Have sex whenever they feel like it? Eat dinner at 9pm?

I have come to the conclusion that contrary to The Stones, time is definitely NOT on my side. In fact, it's time's fault that I am still fat. It's also time's fault that I have so many unfinished projects going on in my house, like the family scrapbook, the kid's baby books and the dreaded bathroom wallpaper. In addition, time has also kept my music library stuck in 2007, since I haven't updated my downloads since then.

I have just become so accustomed to my own daily chaos that I don't know what I would do with uninterrupted time. Maybe I would update my downloads and finish that bathroom. Maybe I would exercise and lose a few lbs. Maybe I could volunteer for a worth-while organization. But in exchange for that uninterrupted time, I think of all the things I would miss out on.

If I were on the other end of the spectrum, I would miss all the snuggles I get in the morning. Albeit sometimes 5:30am, but hearing little feet running to my bed and slinging a bear on top me and reaching for my hand, nonetheless. The silly giggles and goofy made up knock-knock jokes.

I would miss the awe, wonder and innocence of childhood that it is so easy to forget as an adult. I guess that is a little bit of time is a small price to pay.